January 9

Mark Heynen – Serial Entrepreneur, Int’l Business Development Guru (#21)

Business Development, Founder, Marketing, Product Management, Startup

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Biography

Mark Heynen serves as PayJoy’s Chief (Business Development) Officer. Prior to PayJoy, Mark had an extensive career starting companies in the US and abroad, and striking complex deals in the mobile ecosystem. In 1999, Mark joined the founding team of LibertySurf, France’s first free ISP, and launched operations in the UK and Germany. Shortly thereafter in 2000, Mark co-founded retail analytics company Electrobug Technologies in London, which he eventually sold in 2006.

He moved back to the US that year to join Google’s early BD team, where he worked on mapping the developing world and launching Android. He was recruited to Facebook in 2010 to launch the company’s emerging market mobile strategy, including a number of complex carrier deals and the largest acquisition Facebook made at the time (Snaptu). Since leaving in 2012, Mark founded Photo Lab (sold to Dropbox) and led business development and operations for commercial drone startup Skycatch.

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Episode Summary

“If you think of the dirt road, gravel road, paved road of entrepreneurship, the biggest impact you can have in business development is on the dirt road where it’s really unclear what your path forward is going to be.”

—-Mark

Mark Heynen is a man of action. He’s a serial entrepreneur and he’s had his hands in finance, drone surveillance, retail, and other industries. Mark has worked at both Google and Facebook and has founded companies dealing with price scraping and smartphone money lending. He is now co-founder and chief business officer of the startup PayJoy with a mission of giving more people access to credit.

What makes Mark’s story so real is that it keeps evolving. He didn’t graduate knowing exactly what he wanted to do.

“Coming out of college I really had no idea what I wanted to do and so like a lot of people at that stage in life, I decided to try consulting.”

—-Mark

This is something we stress often in Develomentor. It’s okay to not know exactly where you are going.

Mark isn’t a technical man, but he’s always in the middle of the action as the business guy. Mark’s magic is in the uncertainty of human relationships. And he doesn’t mind thinking on his feet using his grit to get there.

In this episode we’ll also cover:

  1. What it takes to be a senior-level business development person
  2. How pay-as-you-go solar panels inspired Mark to start a company
  3. How for-profit ventures can be more effective than nonprofits
  4. Are empathy and curiosity are essential skills for business development?
  5. Why Mark left Google and Facebook?

Key Milestones

[1:36] – What Mark Heynen did coming out of college. How he started consulting, worked for Google, Facebook and became an entrepreneur.
[4:50] – How Mark got involved with the internet
[6:26] – Why Mark decided to start a price scraping company and what were some of the early failures of the business
[10:30] – What is it like doing business development for a tech company?
[13:10] – Mark’s advice to those who wanted to do international business development
[16:24] – What it’s like being a serial entrepreneur in silicon valley
[20:50] – Why providing credit to the underbanked is such an important issue
[24:25] – How to build a business around solving important issues for the developing world
[26:26] – How Mark approaches being a senior-level business development person
[29:02] – Mark on relationship building and why empathy is an essential skill for business development
[32:57] – Mark’s advice for those looking to get into business development

Transcript

Intro: 00:18 [Inaudible].

Grant Ingersoll: 00:19 Hey everyone. This is Grant Ingersoll, your host for the Develomentor podcast. Our aim for each and every episode is to be your source for interviews and content on careers in technology. For those new to the show, we have two simple goals. We want to showcase the interesting people working in tech across a variety of roles and highlight all the different paths those people took to get to that point in their career. To that end. Today’s guest is a history and econ major turn, multiple time tech company co-founder. He’s done a number of stints at companies, big and small, where he’s primarily been focused on product management and business development. Woven throughout his career as a common thread of living and working in and across international markets. Please welcome to the show Mark Heinen. Mark, welcome.

Mark Heynen: 01:10 Happy to be here.

Grant Ingersoll: 01:11 Hey Mark, it’s great to have you on and obviously we have this shared history all the way back going to college and undergrad together. So, you know, we’ve known each other for quite some time, but you know, why don’t we kick off by have you filling in our, our guests with kind of what happened after you graduated college, college. Walk us through your career to this point, if you will.

Mark Heynen: 01:36 Yeah, sure. Happy to do it. So coming out of college I really had no idea what I wanted to do. And so like a lot of people at that stage in life, I basically decided to try consulting. So I worked in DC for a company called The Advisory Board for about two years and got a little tired of that and decided to move to London and joined a British company called Kingfisher, which is a large retailer. I remember my first day, the chairman of this British footsie 100 company asked me what is the internet and how can I buy it? And so the real motivation was to figure out how to engage on the internet. This was around 1998. So help them launch eCommerce websites and spotted a commercial opportunity. And so left and started a company on London, which I ran for about seven years.

Mark Heynen: 02:23 And part of that process of running that company was going to India and launching a team, a company and a team in India about 250 people and really seeing the gap in technology and the main gap in welfare between India and the rest of the developed world. Came back to the U S after I sold my company and got a job at Google where I led business development for a couple of areas including maps and eventually Android helped launch Android in 2008 and left Google for Facebook where I helped them with emerging market projects, specifically the acquisition of a company called snap to which is sort of the main feature phone application that Facebook uses for the developing world. And then left Facebook to start another company, which ended up getting sold to Dropbox. And then helped another friend start a commercial drone company right at the time when that was really taking off.

Mark Heynen: 03:27 And that is still alive today. It’s called Skycatch. They do three D modeling using photogrammetry and drone aerial images. Then while I was at skycatch, a friend of mine from Google approached me showing me a prototype of a pay as you go smart smartphone you know, locking technology that can lock the smartphone to enable pay as you go. And I realized this is solving a lot of the problems we were trying to solve when I was at Android and working on Facebook for emerging markets. And at that point realize this is really an enormous opportunity and found a way to join him in founding PayJoy which has been going now for the last four years and is now in about 12 markets, enabling consumer finance for sort of the next billion, the people who don’t have access to credit.

Grant Ingersoll: 04:16 Wow. A lot to unpack there. And as I understand, so, so you kind of come into this role back at King Fisher where we’re basically the, you know, your boss or whatever is saying, Hey, you know, go figure out this thing called the internet. But you know, your background, obviously, you know, you use computers and all that, but it’s not like you were studying computer science or anything like that. So how, how did you kind of start to unpack, marrying up the (business development) side of technology with the technology side of it?

Mark Heynen: 04:50 Yeah. One thing I realized when I was at King Fisher, in particular, was there’s a lot of, there’s a lot that people didn’t understand about the internet and there’s just a massive information gap. One of my jobs there was literally to research different areas and write white papers for the company on what was going on, just to keep people abreast. And, you know, I really didn’t appreciate this until I spent some time there, with folks at the company, but they have so much other stuff going on. It was hard to keep track of a rapidly changing space like the internet or even tech in general and what people had to do in their mainline job.

So, I think what I realized was, you know, if you really have the time and the curiosity, and the inclination to go deep in a space in tech, you can actually become a relative expert fairly quickly and add a lot of value, not only in terms of informing people, but also in, suggesting paths ahead, ways to forge ahead and actually have an impact. And you know, I think that’s something that is, really useful for any entrepreneur and it, you know, proved useful for me because I spotted this commercial opportunity because I had spent hundreds of hours researching what was going on and talking to people and, you know, really exercising my mind to see what would actually be a big opportunity in this space.

Grant Ingersoll: 06:14 Yeah. So let’s, let’s talk a little bit about that, that first commercial opportunity. I mean, I think if I, if I did my research right it was electro bug, is that right? What was the name?

Mark Heynen: 06:26 That’s right, Electrobug. I don’t think I had a skill in naming companies at that point.

Grant Ingersoll: 06:31 So you’re working at this retailer and, and then, you know, this idea to do essentially a competitive price gape scraping as a service comes through. And, and so, you know, walk us through a little bit of that founding there because you know, you’re here, you’re this guy who, who knows deeply about technology, but you know, you’re not slinging and writing code at that point, right? So you then got to go out and raise money. You’ve got to hire developers, all of those kinds of things. Right? So, you know, what, what were those days, those early days of founding the company like?

Mark Heynen: 07:06 Yeah, there were exciting and terrifying you know, we spotted this opportunity and basically you know, there was no way to figure out what prices were being offered online in a systematic basis. Nielsen was great at doing offline price analysis, but there was no solution for online press analysis and there was a sense everything was cheaper online, but no one had any data to back that up. And so I spotted that that was a fairly significant opportunity that was possibly global. You know, I didn’t know how we were going to go about doing this, but I knew that there was going to be you know, a demand for this. Frankly, the other thing at the time was there was no way for consumers to compare prices. And so this was a more general need around sort of price comparison.

Mark Heynen: 07:55 And so we actually started with the consumer website. And you know, I think the great thing about starting a company earlier in your life is the stakes are low and you’ve made a lot of mistakes and we’ve definitely made a lot of mistakes at that point. I mean, one of the big mistakes we made was we outsourced our development to a third party, which seemed like a great idea at the time because me and my cofounder were not technical. Which I learned was probably also a mistake. It’s always good to have a technical cofounder.

And so we basically you know, trusted third party to develop something. They didn’t do a great job. And you know, we realized we had to pivot hard away from this company. And you know, we also realize the consumer proposition was far less compelling than the business proposition of doing price analysis. So we came across a really smart technologist called Joss who really helped us build our core technology from the ground up. And it took longer than we expected because we didn’t know how to sort of project manage anyone in tech, but he was a very gifted and still, is a very gifted technologist and so built our core web scraping tools. We happen to have the ability to you know, know people in India to actually have people in India who could customize the web scraping tools for different websites.

And the combination of those two things was really what propelled us forward. So I think the answer to your question would be we didn’t know what we were doing in tech and we had to learn by doing, but ultimately it was really that partnership between someone who is a deep technologist and someone who understood the market. That I think helped us get out of the hole that we found ourselves in.

Grant Ingersoll: 09:42 Yeah. I mean, that makes a lot of sense. And I mean, I think, you know, oftentimes tech comes across as really scary at times, but to your point, like, you know, you can, you can just, you spend some time digging in and talking with folks and getting comfortable with it and, and, and then you’ll come out the other side just fine. It’s not as scary as it sounds, you know. And in fact, maybe that’s a good segue because you, you’ve primarily been on the business side of tech for a long time now. And you talked about, you know, working at both big companies and small bringing products to market at the end of the day is, is how I, I understand what your role often has been and, and so how do you think about that process of, of, you know, essentially business development at a tech company?

Mark Heynen: 10:30 Yeah, I think you know, the main process I see that is really impactful for a tech company is really understanding what’s needed out there and translating the back that back to what a company can actually deliver and figuring out that Venn diagram between a company’s capabilities and relative strengths and what people really need. And you know, ultimately because it’s partially business development and company building, it also comes down to figuring out what people are willing to pay for and how to build a sustainable commercial model out of that, which is actually generally a very difficult challenge when you get into something that, you know, we figured out what people want.

So, you know, I really find myself really having a lot of conversations, you end up having a lot of conversations with external constituents who maybe value what you’re doing and trying to listen to what they’re saying and also what they’re not saying. And then talking internally to people on your tech team to understand what is in the realm of possibility.

Grant Ingersoll: 11:30 Yeah. Well, and you know, I mean a us technologists, we, we think all of the world of the tech we build. But you know, the reality is often that, you know, the market doesn’t actually care that the market doesn’t care that you run on a particular stack or that, you know, you’re running on Kubernetes or the latest serverless or Amazon or whatever, right. They, they care about the features that you, you deliver. And in many ways the BD and the sales org is responsible for doing that translation.

Mark Heynen: 12:02 Yeah. Yeah. I find that that is often the case. And I think more to the point you know, the often there is a burning need out there that people haven’t really articulated and a lot of the technology that is available really helps me get to that point faster that otherwise. And, you know, I think the question is, what is that burning need that people need to resolve?

Grant Ingersoll: 12:30 Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. You know, so shifting gears a little bit, I mean, you spent you mentioned you lived over in Europe. For a number of years and you’ve kind of developed this view across working across international markets, you know, so what advice would you have for somebody who wants to find that kind of career where they, where they really get to go and span you know, maybe they get to live in Europe or, or somewhere else overseas and they want to work in BD across international markets. Like how did, how did you find you got educated in that space?

Mark Heynen: 13:10 I would say the number one thing to do is just to get out there. You know, I think this was the experience with me and my cofounder at PayJoy had. You know, his story is he was working at Google and decided to quit Google and get married and he told his future mother and father in law where I’m leaving Google, we’re getting married and we’re moving to Africa. We’re going to basically start selling solar kits in Africa.

They didn’t think was great at first, but I think they got used to it. You know, I think he, you know, he definitely spotted massive opportunities once he got out there and he invented, pays as you go solar, which is for sort of the underlying premise behind pay as you go smartphones, which was what we’re doing now. But he wouldn’t have figured that out until I got out there and I really wouldn’t have spotted any of these opportunities or frankly, I don’t even think I would have had the, you know, relative courage to go out and start a company if I didn’t find myself in London with so many people encouraging me at that, at that point.

Mark Heynen: 14:12 So I think the number one thing is to get out there, get out of your comfort zone you know, don’t think of what other people are doing around you, but think about what, what you really want to do and, you know, try to carve a unique path. You know, and I think that really helped me. I think the second thing I would suggest is people start this early. I think, you know, in various life stages it’s, you know, more or less difficult to do this kind of thing. And definitely, when you’re just out of college, relatively unattached, you can actually live in a lot of different countries.

You’re in a very unique stage where, you know, there are opportunities out there where, you know, you can travel, you can learn about the world and you know, there are people who are probably more at my current life stage you know, who don’t have that ability and don’t have that desire as much. And you know, I would take advantage of that as much as possible. Get out there, try to say yes to whatever international opportunities come your way because you just don’t know. You don’t know. You don’t know what you’re going to come across when you get out there.

Grant Ingersoll: 15:23 Yeah. The world’s not as scary as the news would have you believe, you know, most people are just all trying to do the same thing no matter where they live. Right. Put food on the table and have a better life for themselves and families. So as long as you meet them genuinely it’s almost always the case that you’ll, you’ll be just fine in that market. You know, you hit on some really key things there. Is this something I try to teach my son all the time, which is, you know, like, yeah, especially, you know, when you’re at that age where you can fail, like it’s fine to fail, right? Take the chance, take the shot you maybe don’t have as many trappings in life.

And I think that’s one of the key things you see in, in founders like yourself. So it’s perhaps, you know, reflect for a bit. I think this is, you said your third company, you found it or maybe fourth, even if I count Skycatch in there as well. Right. You know, talk about what, what it means to be a founder, you know, especially a serial entrepreneur in the Valley.

Mark Heynen: 16:24 Yeah. It’s actually something that I think is often misunderstood. Just because these days it gets a lot of media attention. And I think the fact it gets so much media attention is probably net negative for the sort of the founder experience. Mmm. You know, really the primary experience of being a founder in the Valley at this point is around recruiting and fundraising. You know, if, it really depends on what kind of company you’re building, but if you’re building a venture-backed company, which is what a lot of the tech companies here in the Valley are you really have a lot of pressure at this stage to you know, find, obviously find something that is a big opportunity that attacks a scale market where you have a relative advantage over other people.

Develop a prototype as quickly as possible and then raise some kind of funding to make sure you have something sustainable. And the funding is a precondition to being able to recruit people. And you know, you really can’t develop out your technology too much without having some funding in place

Mark Heynen: 17:29 And then you can’t raise the next level of funding without, you know, having some progress on the product development side or on the customer traction side. And so there’s this sort of wheel that you’re always on in terms of recruiting and fundraising? No, I think it’s not for everyone. And I think it only works if you’re really passionate about what you’re doing and you see the recruiting and fundraising as a means to an end later on down the line. If you basically are leaving your cushy job or you know, moving to the Valley because you just want to have a lifestyle of the founder, I think you probably won’t be successful and you probably won’t have that much fun. And you know, the companies you hear about are probably in the 0.1% of all the companies out there. So there are a lot of, which are a lot less fun than you know, what you might read about in the press.

Mark Heynen: 18:22 That said, I think once you learn how to do that and once you find where your passions are, and for me it’s definitely sort of, you know, at this point, you know, solving problems for emerging markets and helping international (business) development. And I think you find those are really powerful tools, very leveraged tools that you can, we can have a really disproportionate impact on the world. And I think that is exciting if you find yourself in that position and you can only really get there by doing it.

There’s really not a lot of books you can read. And I would also just point out, I have a couple of different friends who are founders of non-venture backed companies who are taking a very different sort of approach, much more of I guess what they call lifestyle business approach here. And they’re really enjoying it. I have a friend in Asheville, North Carolina who is, has a one-person company that’s doing super well and it’s basically setting them up very well financially in terms of work fulfillment. So I think there is a lot of different paths to being a founder that are not, you know, so don’t have to fit the mold of what’s happening here in Silicon Valley.

Grant Ingersoll: 19:30 Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I mean, I would add just from my own founding side of a, I was amazed at how much you know, all the different hats you have to wear, right? Like, you know, at the end of the day, like you’re the founder and especially when it’s only a few of you work in, like, you know what, somebody’s got to do that thing and you may not like doing that thing or, or you may not be the best at doing that thing, but that thing needs to get done. Right. So, you know, roll up your sleeves and, and dig in. You know, even if you are venture-backed, you know, you may only have five or six people. Right?

Mark Heynen: 20:07 Absolutely. I agree with that. Yeah.

Grant Ingersoll: 20:09 So you know, you, you talked about you hinted in there at a couple of things around, you know, essentially what PayJoy is doing these days. So you introduced PayJoy a little bit at the beginning. But you know, one of the things that strikes me about the company is you’ve, you’ve found a way to bring in a social mission to, you know, a company that’s for profit, you know, so and, and you’ve talked a lot about how your career is as you’ve traveled throughout, you know, you see a lot of these disparities in access to capital and, and credit and things like that. Talk, talk a little bit more about PayJoy and its mission and what you all are trying to do.

Mark Heynen: 20:50 Sure. Happy to. Yeah, the fundamental problem we’re trying to solve at PayJoy is really the credit problem. So it’s really hard to appreciate this living in the US but for most people in the world, you know, they really have access to zero credit. If they’re trying to sort of upgrade their lifestyle in any way, whether it’s buying a washing machine or buying a phone or buying a house or buying a car, they really have no credit available. And that’s an all-cash transaction for them. It really limits their ability to advance the lifestyle.

This is actually a really pressing problem right now because now the middle-class is bigger than it’s ever been in the history of the world. And I believe it’s getting to becoming the majority of the world’s population who are now considered middle-class. So this is a really widespread problem and not one that I think people here in Silicon Valley think about a lot because a lot of companies here are focused on making life easier for sort of the top 1% of the world’s population. And you know, really the credit isn’t a fundamental ingredient to economic welfare. I

f you’d just think of what went through in 2008 where Jenna Yellen, you know, has been talking about this recently, you know, we’re all concerned about the credit markets seizing up and how that could, you know, ended up being a downward spiral. You know, extending credit to the under-banked basically creates an upward spiral where the whole economy in these emerging markets starts taking off because we have credit available. So what Payjoy is doing is enabling credit through the smartphone in two ways. One is by allowing someone to pledge a smartphone as collateral by locking in their smartphone.

Mark Heynen: 22:32 If they don’t make a payment through some proprietary software. We have a, and the second way is allowing people to generate a credit score off their smartphone using the data on their smartphone to assess their ability to pay him. So between ability to pay and willingness to pay. We have the primary ingredients of credit and we can enable financing for the smartphone itself or unsecured lending or really any level of financing that people want to enable you know, in any of these emerging markets. And I think that’s, you know, it’s important in these markets where maybe only the top two to 5% of people have credit cards or have any level of credit, this is really going to have a massive impact on those people.

Grant Ingersoll: 23:14 Yeah, that’s fantastic. And, I mean, I imagine there’s, there’s a lot of satisfaction of, of that comes out from founding a company that they can have an impact on, on the under-banked the underserved and you know, still has a, a motive that, you know, at the end of the day, quote unquote puts food on the table. Right?

Mark Heynen: 23:33 Yeah. I think that’s a unique thing about software and technology in general. So you have the ability to create these really scalable solutions or products which can scale quickly and also can have a great economic model. But also it’s not a zero-sum game. You’re actually you know, having people pay for your technology, but then ultimately what they’re doing with that technology is having a really massive social impact down the line. I think that’s really the exciting thing about what technology enables,

Grant Ingersoll: 24:03 Right? So, you know, you know, at the end of the day for our listeners, I mean there’s, there’s, there often are these ways to think differently about problems such that you can, you know, and it doesn’t always have to be this black and white of either you’re, you’re making money or you’re doing good, right? You, you can often find places that line up with both and, and sounds like you’ve done that.

Mark Heynen: 24:25 That was definitely the idea and I think it’s also not new. So if people are looking at other sort of possible examples of this, I think pay as you go solar is a great other example which we also have modeled on. So you know, solar kits in African India were being sold for $200 a pop. And it was great because people get, get off kerosene, which is bad for people. You know, no one could afford those solar kits. And so obviously one solution is to give away for free, which is sort of the more you know, nonprofit way to do this. But that’s maybe not be, may not be sustainable. And so actually enabling people to get those solar kits for a dollar a day was a way that worked, was sustainable working commercially and also solved that fundamental problem, which is getting people off of kerosene and moms is something sustainable.

Grant Ingersoll: 25:19 It makes a lot of sense. And it actually reminds me of another podcast episode I did with a person named divine who has done a lot of work in, in finance tech here in the U S around getting the underbanked access to capital. So, so two great examples here on the podcast of, of people doing work to kind of marry up social good with, with actual, you know, making money. Shifting gears here a little bit, Mark you know, want to talk a little bit about kind of what’s the modern landscape around business development look like and, and this role that you’re in of, of being a founder, going out and, and finding partners, you know, especially on a global scale. What are some of the main challenges for a guy like you in this role in terms of growing and scaling the commercial side of a tech business?

Mark Heynen: 26:16 I think the chief challenge for anyone in a growth role, in a company or in a business for all senior business role in a company is ensuring that you have a clear line of sight to sort of significant revenue growth for your company. Really the revenue growth is what solves a lot of problems for your company, whether it’s raising capital or you know, basically seeing your employees, seeing the impact of what you’re doing out there.

What that really means is that you need to define who is going to get the most out of you know, whatever you’re offering. And then you find a way to reach out to them and you find a way to structure something commercially that is sustainable for both parties. I think one of the biggest misconceptions about business development is that it’s sort of this very confrontational negotiation. Um sort of a zero-sum game style negotiation. I find that seldom if ever the case, I think usually you’re presenting something brand new that has never really been seen before and people are just grappling with how they can actually best make, make use of this. And, you know, we as the founding team are trying to figure out how can we best commercialize it, what’s the right pricing structure?

So whether it’s, you know, drones for construction with Skycatch or you know locking software to enable credit with PayJoy or even, you know online pricing analysis with electro bug. You know, the core question was how can we best engage to build something sustainable that can grow over time. And you know, there are a couple of things that I found were sort of tools that would really help me. And you know, a lot of those tools were self-taught. I mean basically asking very open-ended questions, trying to understand what people would be willing to do in different scenarios by asking those open-ended questions was a tool that I found really helpful and frankly, I found the liberal arts education that we both had was super helpful in sort of allowing me to, you know, have sort of a multidisciplinary approach to getting that done.

Grant Ingersoll: 28:31 Yeah, no, that’s fantastic. Now I would imagine too, you know, a lot of, you know, at the end of the day, and this has been a consistent theme on this show is, is relationship development. Right? And, you know, and it sounds, you know, one of those nice contrite terms, but you know, at the end of the day, like you’re doing business with other people and especially in your case, you’re doing business with people around the world. You know, talk a little bit about how you, you work to develop relationships, especially when somebody’s on the other side of the globe.

Mark Heynen: 29:02 Yeah. I’m really glad you asked about that. I think, you know, it’s easier than ever now to initiate a relationship right between LinkedIn and you know, a lot of the networks people have set up around their industries and conferences and the ease of travel, you know, you can really initiate a lot of relationships. I think what’s still a lot more difficult is building meaningful relationships out of those things. And I would say what’s also very difficult in a startup environment is actually bringing large companies along for the ride.

Large companies generally expect a lot of predictability. They expect a certain pace, which is easily a lot slower by a sort of an order of magnitude to what you want to have happen as a startup. Bringing those people along for the ride is really a big challenge. And I think a couple of things I found to be super useful there. I think one is, I mean, you really need to have empathy if you don’t have sort of the natural ability to have empathy for what someone’s feeling on the other side of the table. You’re going to have a lot of problems building a career out of business development. If you have that capability, you already have a massive advantage over most of the people in this space.

I’ve seen you know, people try to fake it and it doesn’t work. And I’ve also seen where even I’ve had a challenge really like trying to understand where people are coming from and you know, have taken extra time to do it. And I’ve seen the dividends from that. I think the second sort of thing I’ve seen super helpful is having a good grasp of sort of communication, both, you know, be able to clarify what you’re trying to do and get that, get that thing across the table, but also being able to listen very well and really understand what people are trying to do, especially in international context.

Mark Heynen: 30:55 Where, you know, people are obviously going to be you know, have different ways of expressing themselves and it’s going to be a little more challenging. And so I think those are sort of the two core things. If someone’s exploring a career in business development, you know, think about whether you have those two skills and if you do or if you think you have the desire to develop them, I think you’re going to be very well positioned to do very well in that space. I guess maybe the third thing I would say is natural curiosity. I mean if you think of sort of the dirt road, gravel road paved road of entrepreneurship, really the biggest impact you can have in business development is on the dirt road where it’s really unclear what your path forward is going to be. And you’re, you’re really just brainstorming quite a few times to try to figure out what’s gonna happen. And I think that curiosity is going to propel you forward.

Grant Ingersoll: 31:48 Yeah. That, that interest in figuring it out. I think at the end of the day to me is one of the core skills, if you will, of entrepreneurship. Right. I agree with you. Yeah. Mark, this is, this has been really fantastic. I mean a lot of good insights in there, both in your career. So you know, listeners here can take away, you know, some, some ideas around how do you go work in international markets, how do you found companies how do you, you know, be successful in the Valley raising money, those kinds of things.

But more importantly, I think thinking about the bigger picture around business development tech, you know, with that mind that, and I think you’ve probably hit it, hit at some of this already with the last question. But you know, one, one thing I like to ask all my guests is, you know, just kinda reflecting on this, the sum total of where you’re at now, you know, what advice would you give someone looking to get into BD or perhaps, you know, what do you wish younger Mark knew that you know now that you’d want to share with our guests?

Mark Heynen: 32:57 Yeah, great question. So I mean, what I like to tell people who ask me, you know, how do I get started in this field is, you know, generally you just have to start doing it in some way. Find a way to start doing it. Whether it’s you know, helping shadowing someone or you know, finding a mentor who already does business development or sales or whether it’s just starting a company and I’m trying to figure out how to sell something no matter how big or small it is. Just that experience of sitting across from someone and trying to articulate what you’re trying to do is really impactful. You know, the role model or rather the person who’s I think had the biggest impact on me is Richard Branson. I read every single one of his biographies and you know, I think he sort of encapsulates sort of the combination of you know, grit in terms of getting something done and also you know, intellectual curiosity of trying to try different things in different areas.

Mark Heynen: 33:53 And so I would highly recommend his biographies just as a sort of a starting point. And then I would also say you know, in terms of getting some sort of grounding you know, I’ve found some people transition from consulting into doing business development at a very junior level, at a very large company, whether it’s large tech companies or even nontech companies. And I find that can be useful just in terms of getting the basics down in terms of how to go about going through this kind of role. But I, I would say if you’re you know, if you’re just starting your career, doing something more entrepreneurial will teach you a lot more frankly, and then you can always do sort of what I did is go into those large companies after you’ve done something more entrepreneurial.

Grant Ingersoll: 34:47 Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Mark and, and you know, I want to be conscious of our time here. Mark, thanks so much for joining me on the show today. And of course we wish all the best of luck to PayJoy. And you and your endeavors there.

Mark Heynen: 35:02 Yeah. Thank you for having me.

Outro: 35:20 [Inaudible].

Key Quotes

Mark Heynen’s early career in business development

“So coming out of college I really had no idea what I wanted to do and so like a lot of people at that stage in life, I basically decided to try consulting

“After I sold my company and got a job at Google where I led business development for a couple of areas including maps and eventually Android I helped launch Android in 2008 and left Google for Facebook where I helped them with emerging market projects.”

“A friend of mine from Google approached me showing me a prototype of a pay-as-you-go smartphone. You know, locking technology that can lock the smartphone to enable pay-as-you-go. And I realized this is solving a lot of the problems we were trying to solve when I was working at Android and Facebook for emerging markets.”

On becoming a founder focused on business developement

“Me and my cofounder were not technical, which I learned was probably a mistake. It’s always good to have a technical cofounder.”

“You end up having a lot of conversations with external constituents who maybe value what you’re doing and trying to listen to what they’re saying and also what they’re not saying. and then talking internally to people on your tech team to understand what is in the realm of possibility.

“Don’t think of what other people are doing around you, but think about what you really want to do and try to carve a unique path.”

On PayJoy’s mission

“Extending credit to the under-banked basically creates an upward spiral where the whole economy in these emerging markets starts taking off because we have credit available.”

“I think the chief challenge for anyone in a growth role is ensuring that you have a clear line of sight to significant revenue growth for your company.”

“And I think one of the biggest misconceptions about business development is that its sort of this very confrontational negotiation.

“The core question was how can we best engage to build something sustainable that can grow over time?”

Advice for aspiring business founders

“If you think of sort of the dirt road, gravel road, paved road of entrepreneurship, really the biggest impact you can have in business development is on the dirt road where it’s really unclear what your path forward is going to be.”

“The role model I think had the biggest impact on me is Richard Branson. I read every single one of his biographies”

“If you’re just starting your career, doing something entrepreneurial will teach you a lot more.”

Additional Resources

Selected Links from the episode:

Kingfisher – International home improvement company
Skycatch – Drone company Mark helped found
PayJoy – Mark’s consumer lending company for emerging markets
Price scraping – Mining the internet for prices
The huge potential of pay-as-you-go solar
Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way – Richard Branson biography

CONNECT WITH MARK HEYNEN
LinkedIn
Twitter

CONNECT WITH GRANT INGERSOLL
LinkedIn
Twitter


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